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OPINION: New Yorkers are Still Owed Answers on State’s Nursing Homes

By Will Barclay


The COVID-19 pandemic exposed massive holes in the procedures and protocols of long-term care and nursing homes in New York state. While we wait for Gov. Kathy Hochul to produce the report she promised months ago detailing those shortcomings, we must also grapple with new horror stories related to these facilities.

 The state attorney general’s office [recently] filed a lawsuit detailing a despicable elder abuse and profiteering scheme at an Orleans County nursing-home facility. In the complaint, Attorney General Letitia James alleged inhumane conditions, inappropriate drugging, and even fatal negligence took place at the Villages of Orleans Health and Rehabilitation Center in Western New York.

 The home’s operators were said to have financial interests in other homes across the state and nation and hid that fact as they let the home deteriorate and fattened their pockets at the expense of the residents. These allegations are gravely serious, and again we are witnessing vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities in New York and their families let down by the state.

 Clearly, the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak was grossly mishandled. That fact, now crystal clear in hindsight of the pandemic’s climax, should have been an obvious wakeup call to the governor and relevant state agencies. Members of the Assembly Minority Conference, along with residents, local-government officials, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle recognized the need for a more thorough review of these facilities.

Yet, little has been done to address the matter. Now, not only is there a seemingly endless number of unanswered questions regarding the state’s pandemic response in these homes, but there are also, perhaps, even more egregious failures taking place.

Unfortunately, the Hochul Administration has failed to prioritize the residents of these facilities. It has yet to produce a report on the condition of these facilities or even begin a formal review. Where is the accountability and what is the excuse for unnecessary delays? Again, I am calling for a full investigation into New York’s pandemic response in long-term care facilities, especially in light of the horrific allegations brought by the attorney general.

We must protect our most vulnerable residents, and right now they, and their families, are not getting the time, attention, and energy they deserve.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, 53, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.